Sybille Bedford and the Art of the Origin Story

In the summer of 1940, when she was twenty-nine years old, Sybille Bedford took on an unusual assignment: driving Thomas Mann’s poodle across the United States. Bedford had known Mann, nearly forty years her senior, since her adolescence, which she spent living among German expatriates in the South of France. An aspiring but so far unprolific writer of fiction and nonfiction, she had come of age under his shadow. Now both she and Mann were refugees in another country. Mann and his family, moving from Princeton to Pacific Palisades, took the train; the country was experiencing a heat wave, and the compartments were air-conditioned. Bedford drove the writer’s car with her girlfriend and Nico, the poodle, stopping every once in a while for a bottle of Coke, which she spiked with rum.

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